Bela Lugosi


Actor
Bela Lugosi

About

Also Known As
Bela Lugossy, Bela Ferenc Denzso Blasko, Arisztid Olt
Birth Place
Hungary
Born
October 20, 1882
Died
August 16, 1956
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

Though he achieved a great deal of fame for playing Count Dracula both on stage and on the screen, actor Bela Lugosi suffered a lifetime of being typecast as a horror villain or mad scientist - a problem that was only exacerbated by a serious morphine addiction later in his career. Lugosi started making movies in his native Hungary and moved on to German productions before finally landin...

Photos & Videos

Dracula (1931) - Lobby Cards
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla - Lobby Cards
Mark of the Vampire - Publicity Stills

Family & Companions

Ilona Szmik
Wife
Married in 1917; divorced in 1920.
Ilona von Montagh
Wife
Actor. Married in 1921; divorced in 1924.
Clara Bow
Companion
Actor.
Beatrice Woodruff Weeks
Wife
Married and divorced in 1929.

Bibliography

"Vampire over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain"
Frank J. Dello Stritto and Andi Brooks, Cult Movie Press (2001)
"Karloff and Lugosi: The Story of a Haunting Collaboration"
Gregory William Mank, McFarland (1989)
"The Count"
Arthur Lenning, G.P. Putnam's Sons (1974)

Biography

Though he achieved a great deal of fame for playing Count Dracula both on stage and on the screen, actor Bela Lugosi suffered a lifetime of being typecast as a horror villain or mad scientist - a problem that was only exacerbated by a serious morphine addiction later in his career. Lugosi started making movies in his native Hungary and moved on to German productions before finally landing in the United States. After a number of supporting roles, he was the lead in a highly successful stage production of "Dracula" (1927) in New York, which eventually led to him starring in the 1931 film adaptation. "Dracula" became a box office hit and propelled the thickly accented Lugosi into a number of horror movies, including "White Zombie" (1932), "The Black Cat" (1934) and "The Raven" (1935). Almost immediately, he recognized the danger of being typecast, but failed to break free of the confines of horror despite his best efforts. Even an acclaimed performance in the comedy "Ninotchka" (1939) written by Billy Wilder did nothing to shake convention. He spent the 1940s in a string of mediocre B-flicks while growing increasingly dependant on morphine, only to be briefly rescued from obscurity by notorious filmmaker, Ed Wood, who cast him in "Glen or Glenda" (1953) and "Bride of the Monster" (1955), widely cited as two of the worst movies ever made. Despite an ignominious end to his life and career, Lugosi was nonetheless instrumental in bringing the horror genre to prominence - an influence felt well into the next century.

Born Béla Ferenc Dezsö Blaskó on Oct. 20, 1882 in Lugos, Hungary, Lugosi was raised by his father, Istvan, a banker, and his mother, Paula, both of whom reared their children in a Roman Catholic home. At 12 years old, he dropped out of school and by his early twenties, began acting in small roles for provincial theater. In 1911, Lugosi appeared in a number of stage productions and was a member of the National Theatre of Hungary, for whom he performed a variety of small and supporting roles. When World War I broke out, Lugosi joined the fight as a lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian Army and was wounded on the Russian front after rising to captain, serving from 1914-16. Three years later, he fled his homeland during the Hungarian Revolution - a short-lived period where Communism took root after the war - and found his way first to Austria and then German, where he continued to act. Having already made his film debut in "A Leopard" (1917) under the name Arisztid Olt, Lugosi began appearing in several acclaimed German silent films, including "On the Brink of Paradise" (1920) and "The Caravan of Death" (1920).

In 1921, Lugosi intended to immigrate to the United States via New Orleans, but instead found himself entering the country through Ellis Island in New York that March. When he first arrived, Lugosi worked as a laborer before he returned to the stage in the immigrant Hungarian community, making his U.S. stage debut in "The Red Poppy" (1922) while forming the Hungarian Repertory Theatre that same year. After making his American film debut in "The Silent Command" (1923), Lugosi appeared in a number of stage productions, including a long run in "The Devil in the Cheese," before tackling his most memorable role. He made his first appearance as "Dracula" in a popular 1927 stage production in New York, playing the part for over 260 performances before Hollywood began offering him film roles - namely character spots in pictures like "How to Handle Women" (1928) and "Woman of All Nations" (1931). Though not the first choice of director Tod Browning, Lugosi went on to reprise his stage role for the feature adaptation of "Dracula" (1931), which originally had Lon Chaney slotted to play the vampire until he died of a throat hemorrhage.

Nonetheless, Lugosi made an indelible mark as Count Dracula, with his macabre appearance, strikingly theatrical performance style, and thick Hungarian accent making him the very incarnation of evil. Though at first the studio was nervous about audiences accepting a supernatural thriller, Universal Pictures was thrilled when "Dracula" became a huge box office hit, paving the way for such other horror classics as "Frankenstein" (1931), "The Mummy" (1932) and "The Invisible Man" (1933). Meanwhile, Lugosi hit the peak of his fame with starring roles in "White Zombie" (1932), "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1932) and "The Black Cat" (1934), though he was typically typecast as a horror villain - a dilemma that plagued him for the rest of his career. He tried in vain to establish himself in other genres, but often lost roles to other actors that may well have helped him branch out. For a number of films, including "The Raven" (1935), "The Invisible Ray" (1936), "Son of Frankenstein" (1939) and "Black Friday" (1940), Lugosi was paired with another horror giant, Boris Karloff, though he typically received second billing below the British star. Though reportedly he resented Karloff's success, particularly in genres outside science fiction and horror, Lugosi settled into an amicable working relationship with the actor.

Lugosi's fine supporting turn as the stern commissar in the Greta Garbo vehicle "Ninotchka" (1939) showed that he could play outside the horror and mystery genres, but his career degenerated in the 1940s despite his best efforts to break free of the mold that had been cast for him. Throughout the decade, Lugosi played a variety of killers and mad scientist roles in lackluster B flicks like "The Corpse Vanishes" (1942), "The Ape Man" (1943), "The Return of the Vampire" (1944) and "Zombies on Broadway" (1945). During this time, Lugosi's career slide went hand-in-hand with an increasing addiction to morphine due to his injuries suffered in World War I. He made his final studio film with "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948), in which he recreated Dracula alongside Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's Monster. Lugosi returned to the stage for the remainder of the decade, often recreating his role in "Dracula" or performing in "Arsenic and Old Lace." After returning from a six-month tour of England as Count Dracula in 1951, he starred in the low-budget horror comedy, "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla" (1952).

At this point in his life and career, Lugosi had hit rock bottom. Heavily addicted to morphine and living in near-poverty, he was briefly rescued by wide-eyed filmmaker Ed Wood, a longtime fan of Lugosi's who nonetheless became notorious for being the worst filmmaker of all time. Wood cast Lugosi in his cross-dressing exploitation film "Glen or Glenda" (1953) as a scientist who narrates the story of a man (Wood) who becomes interested in transexuality - often considered a semi-autobiographical take on Wood's own penchant for cross-dressing. Lugosi next starred as a mad scientist in Wood's "Bride of the Monster" (1955), which turned out to be the actor's last speaking role. During post-production, Lugosi decided to enter a drug rehabilitation center and managed to wrest himself from his addictions. But his victory failed to last. Following a role as a mute in "The Black Sheep" (1956), Lugosi died on Aug. 16, 1956 of a heart attack while lying on his couch in Los Angeles. He was 73. Prior to his death, Lugosi shot test footage of him wearing one of his Dracula capes in a graveyard. Ed Wood later crammed the footage into the notorious "Plan 9 from Outer Space" (1959), widely considered to be the worst movie ever made.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Extraordinary Tales (2015)
Voice
Innocent Blood (1992)
Head (1968)
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Ghoul man
The Black Sleep (1956)
Casimir
Glen or Glenda? (1953)
Scientist
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)
Dr. Zabor
My Son, The Vampire (1952)
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Dracula
Scared to Death (1947)
Leonide
Genius at Work (1946)
Stone
The Body Snatcher (1945)
Joseph
Zombies on Broadway (1945)
Dr. Paul Renault
Return of the Ape Man (1944)
Prof. Dexter
Voodoo Man (1944)
Dr. Marlowe
One Body Too Many (1944)
Murkil
The Ape Man (1943)
Dr. James Brewster
The Return of the Vampire (1943)
Armand Tesla, later known as Dr. Hugo Bruckner
Ghosts on the Loose (1943)
Emil
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Monster
SOS Coast Guard (1942)
Boroff
Bowery at Midnight (1942)
Professor Brenner [also known as] Karl Wagner
Black Dragons (1942)
Dr. Melcher/Dr. Colomb
The Corpse Vanishes (1942)
Dr. Lorenz
Night Monster (1942)
Rolf
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
Ygor
The Invisible Ghost (1941)
Mr. [Charles] Kessler
Spooks Run Wild (1941)
Nardo
The Black Cat (1941)
Eduardo
The Wolf Man (1941)
Bela
Black Friday (1940)
Eric Marnay
Devil Bat (1940)
Dr. Paul Carruthers
The Saint's Double Trouble (1940)
The partner
You'll Find Out (1940)
Prince Saliano
The Gorilla (1939)
Peters
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
Ygor
Ninotchka (1939)
[Commissar] Razinin
The Phantom Creeps (1939)
The Human Monster (1939)
Shadow of Chinatown (1937)
Victor Poten
The Invisible Ray (1936)
Dr. Felix Benet
Postal Inspector (1936)
Gregory Benez
The Raven (1935)
Dr. Richard Vollin
Murder by Television (1935)
Arthur Perry
The Best Man Wins (1935)
Doc Boehn
Mark of the Vampire (1935)
Count Mora
Mystery of the Marie Celeste (1935)
The Black Cat (1934)
Dr. Vitus Werdegast
The Mysterious Mr. Wong (1934)
Mr. Wong, also known as Lysee
Chandu on the Magic Isle (1934)
Frank Chandler, also known as Chandu, the Magician
The Return of Chandu (1934)
Frank Chandler, also known as Chandu, the Magician
Gift of Gab (1934)
Himself
The Devil's in Love (1933)
Prosecutor
International House (1933)
General Petronovich
Night of Terror (1933)
Degar
The Death Kiss (1933)
Joseph Steiner
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
Doctor Mirakle
White Zombie (1932)
"Murder" Legendre
Chandu the Magician (1932)
Roxor
Island of Lost Souls (1932)
Sayer of the Law
Women of All Nations (1931)
Prince Hassan
Broadminded (1931)
Pancho
Dracula (1931)
Count Dracula
The Black Camel (1931)
Tarneverro, also known as Arthur Mayo
50 Million Frenchmen (1931)
Magician
Wild Company (1930)
Felix Brown
Renegades (1930)
The Marabout
Oh, For a Man (1930)
Frescatti
Such Men Are Dangerous (1930)
Dr. Erdmann
The Thirteenth Chair (1929)
Inspector Delzante
Prisoners (1929)
The man
The Midnight Girl (1925)
Nicholas Schuyler
The Rejected Woman (1924)
Jean Gagnon
The Silent Command (1923)
Hisston
Der Fruch der Menschheit 1. Teil: Die Tochter der Arbeit (1920)
Der Tanz auf dem Vulkan 1. Teil: Sybil Joung (1920)
Der Fruch der Menschheit 2. Teil: Im Rausche der Milliarden (1920)
Der Januskopf (1920)
Die Frau im Delphin oder 30 Tage auf dem Meeresgrund (1920)
Die Teufelsanbeter (1920)
Der Tanz auf dem Vulkan 2. Teil: Der Tod des Grossfursten (1920)
Elet kiralya, Az (1918)
Kilencvenkilenc (1918)
Casanova (1918)
Kuzdelem a letert (1918)
Lulu (1918)
Alarcosbal (1917)
Tavaszi vihar (1917)
Ezredes, Az (1917)
Naszdal (1917)

Cast (Short)

Intimate Interviews: Bela Lugosi (1932)
Himself

Life Events

1902

Began acting on stage in Dera, Hungary, under the name Bela Lugossy

1911

Appeared in stage productions in Hungary

1917

Screen debut (billed as Arisztid Olt) in "A Leopard"

1919

To avoid political trouble in Hungary, moved to Germany

1921

Immigrated to USA

1922

Settled in NYC and formed the Hungarian Repertory Theatre

1922

Made US stage debut in "The Red Poppy"

1923

US film debut in "The Silent Command"

1927

Enjoyed success on Broadway playing the title role in a stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, "Dracula"

1931

Achieved star status in films playing the title role in Tod Browning's film, "Dracula"

1934

Appeared in the first of eight films which also featured noted horror star Boris Karloff, "The Black Cat"

1939

Had a cameo role in "Ninotchka"

1948

Played the role of Dracula for a second and final time in "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein"

1953

First of three films for director Edward D Wood Jr "Glen or Glenda?"

1956

Last film, "Plan 9 from Outer Space", directed by Wood; died during production; a double, keeping his face partly covered with a cape, stood in for Lugosi in several scenes

1994

Portrayed by Martin Landau (who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) in the biopic "Ed Wood"

Photo Collections

Dracula (1931) - Lobby Cards
Dracula (1931) - Lobby Cards
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla - Lobby Cards
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla - Lobby Cards
Mark of the Vampire - Publicity Stills
Here are several Publicity Stills from Mark of the Vampire (1935). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
White Zombie - Movie Ticket
Here is an Original Ticket for White Zombie (1932) at the Ritz Theatre in Barnesville, GA. Children 10 cents, Adults 15 cents.
The Devil Bat - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from The Devil Bat (1940), starring Bela Lugosi. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Mark of the Vampire - Ad Art
Here is some advertising art from Tod Browning's Mark of the Vampire (1935), including an original Herald, and black-and-white renditions of American movie posters. (Very few actual posters for this title are known to exist).
The Wolf Man - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills taken for Universal Pictures' The Wolf Man (1941), starring Lon Chaney Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Bela Lugosi, and Claude Rains. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Body Snatcher - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster from The Body Snatcher (1945). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Mark of the Vampire - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from MGM's Mark of the Vampire (1935), starring Lionel Barrymore, Bela Lugosi, and Elizabeth Allen.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Plan 9 from Outer Space - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Bride of the Monster - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster (1956). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Bride of the Monster - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster (1956). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Plan 9 from Outer Space - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions. The cards from this low-budget film were printed in Duotone.
Bride of the Monster - Scene Photos
Here are several scene stills from Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster (1956).
Plan 9 from Outer Space - Scene Photos
Here are several scene stills from Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).

Videos

Movie Clip

Island Of Lost Souls (1932) - Are We Not Men? Accidental guest Parker (Richard Arlen) and Lota (Kathleen Burke), whom he doesn't know is an experimental animal-human hybrid, think they're escaping when they're waylaid by gangs of half-beasts (Bela Lugosi their leader), and Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) arrives to restore order, in Universal's Island Of Lost Souls, 1932.
Island Of Lost Souls (1932) - A Laughing Jackass Paul Hurst as Donahue has the unlucky assignment of escorting Ruth (Leila Hyams), come to find her fiancè Parker (Richard Arlen), on the south sea island where he’s been taken in by mad Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton), knowing nothing as yet about his freaky man-beasts and “bio-anthropological research,” in Island Of Lost Souls, 1932.
You'll Find Out (1940) - College Of Musical Knowledge Introductory schtick after a couple of staged scenes with radio listeners, RKO contract players Jeff Corey and Eleanor Lawson are the contestants as bandleader Kay Kyser does his bit based on the NBC radio hit, in the comedy-musical-horror-hybrid vehicle You'll Find Out, 1940, with Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre.
You'll Find Out (1940) - The Spirits Are Strongly Displeased Horror cameos and lingerie, Bela Lugosi with no prologue appears in the guest room of band leader and star Kay Kyser, then Peter Lorre lurks as New York society hostess Janis (Helen Parrish) and singer Ginny Simms take turns being disrobed, in the musical-horror-comedy You’ll Find Out, 1940.
Night Monster (1942) - I Didn't Send For Any Psychiatrist Butler Rolf (Bela Lugosi) inducts shrink Dr. Harper (Irene Hervey) and crime writer pal Dick (Don Porter), leading to the first scene for Ralph Morgan as Ingston, lord of the spooky manor, hoisted by driver Laurie (Leif Erikson) and introducing Nils Asther as guru-like Singh, early in Universal's Night Monster, 1942.
Night Monster (1942) - They Call It Cosmic Substance The paralyzed master of the house Ingster (Ralph Morgan) gives the floor to his yogi (Nils Asther as Agor Singh) who explains to the group (doctors Francis Pierlot and Frank Reicher, butler Bela Lugosi, mystery writer Don Porter, shrink Irene Hervey and patient Fay Helm) about creepy Eastern theories, in Universal’s programmer Night Monster, 1942.
Human Monster, The (1939) - Growing Thames Death Toll Opening with one of several bits of impressive London location work, a body afloat then affronted police, lectured by Commissioner George Street, especially to Hugh Williams as detective Holt, in Dark Eyes Of London, 1939, also known by its Hollywood title, The Human Monster, starring Bela Lugosi.
Human Monster, The (1939) - Dearborn's Home For The Destitute Blind Having just dismissed a suspicious copper, Bela Lugosi as insurance impresario Dr. Orloff, takes a shot of something, whereupon we follow Lou (Arthur Owen) to the blind home, greeted by creepy Jake (Wilfred Walter), then joining proprietor Dearborn, who might (?) also be Lugosi, in Dark Eyes Of London, 1939, a.k.a. The Human Monster.
Human Monster, The (1939) - Brilliant But Unbalanced Cut to first scene for Bela Lugosi (who sailed all the way to London for this one picture), as Dr. Orloff, his relation to murders reported in the previous scene not quite explained as yet, making a loan to Gerald Pring as Stuart, in Dark Eyes Of London, 1939, a.k.a. The Human Monster.
Night Monster (1942) - After What I've Seen And Heard Joining the expository opening for this semi-ensemble Universal programmer, Millie (Janet Shaw), maid in the mansion, expresses her discontent to Bela Lugosi as the butler Rolf, who’s not happy with her or the chauffeur Laurie (Leif Erikson), in the first feature by the noted Hollywood craftsman Ford Beebe, Night Monster, 1942.
You'll Find Out (1940) - Mysterious Struggle Between Light And Shadow On a stormy evening after Kay Kyser’s gig at the pre-wedding party, singer Ginny Simms, manager/groom Chuck (Dennis O’Keefe) and his girlfriend, the hostess Janis (Helen Parrish) get a surprise from heretofore benevolent family friend judge Mainwaring (Boris Karloff) and unexpected professor Fenninger (Peter Lorre), in the horror-comedy You’ll Find Out, 1940.
Mark Of The Vampire (1935) - This Is No Time For Levity Servants (Leila Bennett, Ivan Simpson) bat-proofing, the count (Bela Lugosi) undeterred, inspector (Lionel Atwill) doubtful, professor (Lionel Barrymore) advises the baron (Jean Hersholt), Elizabeth Allen under guard, her dad (Holmes Herbert) confirmed un-dead, in Mark Of The Vampire, 1935.

Trailer

Devil Bat, The (1940) -- Original Trailer Speedy trailer for the first feature from Producers Releasing Corporation, a low-rent outfit even by “Poverty Row” standards, The Devil Bat, 1940, starring Bela Lugosi.
Scared To Death - (Original Trailer) Bela Lugosi in his only color movie! It's enough to leave anyone Scared To Death (1947).
Bride of the Monster - (Original Trailer) Infamous director Ed Wood, Jr. helps Bela Lugosi create the Bride Of The Monster (1955).
Ghosts on the Loose - (Re-issue Trailer) The East Side Kids offer to redecorate Ava Gardner's cottage, only to find it inhabited by Bela Lugosi in Ghosts on the Loose (1943).
Spooks Run Wild - (Original Trailer) The East Side Kids meet Bela Lugosi in a haunted house in Spooks Run Wild (1941).
Dracula (1931) - (Re-issue Trailer) The legendary bloodsucker stakes his claim on a British estate in search of new blood in Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi.
You'll Find Out - (Original Trailer) Kay Kyser and his band fight to save a young girl trapped in a haunted mansion in You'll Find Out (1940) starring Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.
Fifty Million Frenchmen - (Original Trailer) Olsen & Johnson prove Fifty Million Frenchmen (1931) can't be wrong in the film version of the comic Broadway hit -- minus the Cole Porter songs!
Island of Lost Souls - (Original Trailer) On a remote island, a mad scientist turns wild animals into human monsters in Island of Lost Souls (1932).
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) - (Re-issue Trailer) Bela Lugosi takes his first mad scientist role as he mixes human and gorilla blood with deadly results in Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932).
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - (Re-issue Trailer) Universal first married their classic horror with their hottest comedy team in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).
Wolf Man, The - (Re-issue Trailer) Lon Chaney, Jr. becomes a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the moon is full and bright in the horror classic The Wolf Man (1941).

Family

Bela G Lugosi
Son
Attorney. Mother, Lillian Lugosi.

Companions

Ilona Szmik
Wife
Married in 1917; divorced in 1920.
Ilona von Montagh
Wife
Actor. Married in 1921; divorced in 1924.
Clara Bow
Companion
Actor.
Beatrice Woodruff Weeks
Wife
Married and divorced in 1929.
Lillian Arch
Wife
Married in 1933; divorced in 1953; mother of Lugosi's son.
Hope Linniger
Wife
Married in 1955 until his death in 1956.

Bibliography

"Vampire over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain"
Frank J. Dello Stritto and Andi Brooks, Cult Movie Press (2001)
"Karloff and Lugosi: The Story of a Haunting Collaboration"
Gregory William Mank, McFarland (1989)
"The Count"
Arthur Lenning, G.P. Putnam's Sons (1974)